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Photos by editor Mary Chang
The first official day of the SXSW 2014 Music Festival began somewhat slowly for us at TGTF. Most of the official showcases were slated to begin in the evening, so we spent the day picking up our press wristbands and getting acquainted with downtown Austin. Our fearless editor Mary is a seasoned SXSW veteran, and she knew I would need a quick orientation before the action really got started. She showed me around to all the venues I’d need to know, along with a few other places of interest, and once we were done, we had some free time. Naturally we found ourselves gravitating to the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, where we’d attended the Creative Belfast event the previous night and where we would end up passing through many times in the course of our week in Austin.
When we walked into the venue on Tuesday, we caught the end of a set by a band that neither of us knew, but whose singer looked vaguely familiar. Intrigued by their soulful sound, I asked around after them and was told that the singer was Belfast-based Travis is a Tourist. I chased the band outside after they finished and asked for an impromptu interview, during which I found out where I’d seen them before and received some surprisingly thoughtful answers to my off-the-cuff questions.
As I discovered in the interview, Travis is a Tourist is currently finishing his second as-yet-untitled EP. His self-titled debut EP can be found on his Bandcamp page, and he has several videos available for viewing on YouTube. The following video, for a track called ‘Paperweight’, was shot by Brian O’Kane, who is also working on the Travis is a Tourist documentary referenced in the interview.
My after-the-fact peek at Travis is a Tourist’s Breaking Tunes page revealed that he has recently toured with Lucy Rose and Nick Mulvey, both of whom have been featured here on TGTF. Coincidentally, I had the opportunity to interview Mulvey before his Communion Music Showcase performance on Friday night; Austin during SXSW truly is a small and weird world!
I wasn’t prepared enough to take photos of Travis is a Tourist during his performance on Tuesday (Mary captured the images seen here), but I did get some shots of him in another context on the Friday. If you’re an astute reader, you might have caught Travis in this photo of Mary’s from Monday night as well.
Travis Is A Tourist (far left) with Rams’ Pocket Radio.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 18th March 2014 at 11:00 am
Last week when TGTF were in Austin for SXSW, I caught up with Glaswegian pop / dance band Prides (Stewart Brock on keys and lead vox; Callum Wiseman on guitar, keys and backing vocals; and Lewis Gardner on drums) after their rousing set as part of the Tuesday night programming the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 that was curated by none other than Radio 1’s beloved Welsh teddy bear Huw Stephens. They chat to me about their New Wave, “strong ’80s influence”, the era of Biffy imitators in Glasgow and where we should all go to see gigs at in their hometown. There is much more of course. Listen to the interview in full below.
If you live in America, they will be touring the East Coast with RAC through to the end of March; see all the dates here.
Cheers guys and thank you to Ally for this lovely interview. Best wishes for the rest of your American tour!
If you’re keeping up with our SXSW 2014 coverage, you’ll already know that Mary and I attended the Creative Belfast event at the British Music Embassy on Monday night. In addition to chatting with the adorable Wonder Villains, I had the chance to interview Rams’ Pocket Radio, aka Peter McCauley, after his set. We talked about his plans for his time in Austin, his new single ‘Love Is A Bitter Thing’ and his intellectual music style.
Thanks to Jimmy for setting up this interview.
In my first SXSW 2014 interview, I caught up with Northern Irish indie pop band Wonder Villains at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 Monday night. The evening’s Creative Belfast event was hosted by none other than Radio 1 DJ Phil Taggart, and the music lineup included Rams’ Pocket Radio and Unknown in addition to the exuberant Wonder Villains. Band members Ryan McGroarty, Eimar Coyle, Kieran Coyle and Cheylene Murphy were positively bubbling with excitement as they got ready to take the stage, as you can hear below.
Wonder Villains’ set included both ‘Blonde’ and ‘Debbie’, the latter of which they dedicated to Blondie singer Debbie Harry after hearing a rumour that Blondie would be in town for SXSW. New single ‘Marshall’ and fan favorite ‘Zola’ were also highlights of the show.
Many thanks to Jimmy for setting up this interview.
What better way to start the new year than with some new music? Or, in this case, some new-to-me music, specifically from Manchester indie band Bauer (not to be confused with Dutch duo Bauer or ‘Harlem Shake’ hitmaker Baauer). Bauer’s New Wave, synth pop sound takes its influence from ’80s bands like New Order, Depeche Mode, and Talk Talk, according to guitarist Michael Reed. I had the chance to exchange e-mail with Reed just before the Christmas holiday to find out more about the band and their new compilation album, ‘Lose All Memory’.
First, a little background information. Previously known as Barfly, Bauer changed their moniker after the threat of a lawsuit from a chain of music venues using the same name. Bauer have been together as a band officially since 2006, comprised of members Greg Matthews (singer/songwriter/synth), Neil Treppas (producer/bass), Lee Bradbury (drums), and Reed (guitar). It wasn’t until late last year that I discovered them via Twitter, and while I can’t remember exactly how the connection came about, I was quite pleasantly surprised when I finally took the time to listen to their tunes. Bauer’s back catalogue includes an EP, ‘Feels Like Heaven’, and several single releases, as well as their first full-length studio album, ‘Sleeping Giant’, which was released in November 2012.
‘Lose All Memory’ was released at the end of 2013 as a collection of what Reed described as “some really good tracks that are either full on studio recordings or good quality demos that didn’t quite fit in the first album proper”. He added that “some of these tracks are probably better than the first album songs in many ways, but it was more about how that first album flowed”.
Reed admitted that the process of recording and releasing music has at times been frustrating for Bauer. “We’ve had a few frustrating periods where things haven’t been happening or where normal life just takes over and you can’t give it all to music until things change. Luckily for us with the band there’s always been a great chemistry and we’ve reached a level of friendship that goes just beyond being mates that play music together.”
The band have toyed around with both major and independent record labels in the past but have recently leaned toward releasing and promoting their own music. “The last single and the two albums have been self-releases. This gives us quite a lot of freedom musically. Obviously, there isn’t a massive budget because we’re not working with a label, but we try to make up for that by working hard, making great songs and getting press in a different way. The music bloggers have been great to us since the first album. We didn’t really plan on doing any press on this new compilation record but we got asked quite a few times for interviews and some of the bloggers just reviewed the album after buying it! These are people that have a real passion for music. They’re not in it for the money.” (Ha! Is there any money in this job?)
As a true independent band, Bauer have found themselves using Facebook and Twitter to circulate and publicise their music in lieu of the traditional record label support. “The social networking thing really is a great way of finding new fans and interacting with new people. If you work hard at it, you can get real results, as we’ve seen on the first album. You can get a similar result if you’ve built up good relationships with people than if you were to just go and spunk away a few grand on a plugging company. You’ll also find that with a band like us you get a much different experience than if you’re following a major label artist. We will reply to your Tweet or email, we’ll talk to you after a show, and I think people do really appreciate that.”
Some of the songs included on ‘Lose All Memory’ have been fan favourites without ever making it onto previous releases. Reed explains that the band put the compilation together with a dual purpose in mind. “We thought it’d be a waste to never stick these songs out. It’s also great because it gives the fan base something else to listen to whilst we’re working on the next studio record.”
That next studio record is in its seminal phase at this point, but Bauer have a tentative plan for 2014. “It’s likely we’ll be pretty quiet in the first half of the year; we’re going away to dream up the new album. We’re looking at a summer single release if all goes to plan, with another single later in the year followed by an album.” In the meantime, check out ‘Signs’ from ‘Lose All Memory’, which is available as a free download below.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 13th December 2013 at 12:00 pm
After the announcement yesterday that Leeds band China Rats landed at #2 in the TGTF 10 for 2014 readers’ poll, I had a cheeky chat with the Rats’ frontman Graeme Thompson (lead vocals and guitar). We talked about their hometown, where their name came from (come now, you were dying to know this too, weren’t you?), what it’s been like working with fab producer Matt Peel, and their American baptism by fire at this year’s SXSW.
So you’re from Leeds. How important is being from Leeds play in the story of China Rats?
We all met in Leeds and have lived here ever since. Leeds is very important to us, as without it we wouldn’t exist. There are so many great bands and venues in the city as well, everybody’s feeding off each other and being inspired, there’s lots going on, it’s impossible to ignore.
Ok, I’m Chinese, so I have to ask…why China Rats? How did you arrive at that name? Were you known by other monikers prior to it?
Luke and me kept a pet rat a couple of years back whose cage was made in China. We named the band in memory of our rat, RIP. We’ve been playing together in various guises since we met but only formed China Rats when we wrote new songs, which weren’t working with what we were doing before.
Your catalogue, songs like the earlier ‘To Be Like I’ seems to be almost like from another band. Was there a moment when things “clicked” to your current sound?
I think when we decided to work with a producer instead of self-producing our own music was when our sound became closer to how it is now on ‘Don’t Play With Fire’ [the band’s latest EP, which I reviewed here]. Matt Peel helped us see that we didn’t need to spend hours recording songs to finish them. We just set up and played through the songs adding bits here and there, it felt quite organic doing vocals in 1 take rather than 100, and nothing had to be perfect.
From what I’ve read, a lot of people have noted that your sound seems to be channeling the spirit of great past punk bands like the Clash and the Ramones. Do these comparisons make you uncomfortable, or do you think they’re appropriate? Explain.
We’ll never feel uncomfortable being compared to such highly regarded bands, but I (think) these comparisons give us more of a push to change it up a bit next time. Influences are always going to shine through, but we don’t want people to feel we’re just ripping (from) the past.
Besides those two bands, what bands that are active today do you look to as influences?
Everyone’s getting influences from all over the show, there’s a lot of cool bands coming out of Leeds, like Soulmates Never Die and Eagulls, who are setting the bar high so we’re getting a lot of inspiration from the local scene. We’ve been listening to a lot of The Feelies and The The lately as well.
The first time I saw you gig was at this year’s SXSW, at a British Music Embassy showcase. Tell us what it was like to go to America and play there. How different was it playing there, versus back in Britain? Was it your first time visiting the States?
It was my first time visiting the States, so to go to play a gig in Austin was unreal. There’s a lot of industry at SXSW so it can be a strange place to be, sometimes your playing to a of room stony faces, sometimes there’ll be loads of locals and people just there to enjoy themselves. It’s pretty similar to Britain in the way that the crowds aren’t easy to please, but then I guess there’s a lot (of people) from all over the world at SXSW. Hopefully, we’ll go stateside again sometime and play our own show and feel more of an authentic U.S. vibe.
There is this wonderful story about your band having to step in to headline Benicassim in 2012 out of necessity and it was entirely unplanned. Can you tell us what happened? How did you go over?
We played the campsite the night before the festival kicked off, and I guess the promoter enjoyed us as he asked us to fill in for Bat for Lashes when their bus broke down. The show was madness, it was about 2 AM (when we played), so everyone was well oiled and it looked like there were about 10,000 people in front of us. We were getting texts all over the show from people back home.
Your EP ‘Don’t Play with Fire’, released on Once Upon a Time Records in September, was one of my favourite releases of 2013. What can you tell us about the writing and recording of the EP?
Glad you like it!! We wrote the entire EP at our practice room in Leeds, we then hooked up with Matt Peel who produced it for us at Cottage Road. It was the first time we’d recorded anywhere other than our own home, so it made a real difference having someone else’s insight. We recorded the basis of the tracks live and quickly, which felt a lot more raw and organic compared to past recordings.
What’s on tap for China Rats in 2014? Can we expect a debut album soon?
The albums basically written we’re just waiting to record it now, which should be early next year. Then 2014’s going to be a lot of touring and putting the album out at some point!
Cheers Graeme for answering our questions!